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Infiniti plans to add new flagship sedan, expand crossovers

Tue, 14 May 2013

Nissan Motor Co.'s premium Infiniti marque plans to add a new top-tier halo nameplate above its Q70 flagship sedan and expand its crossover offerings to build the brand and fuel sales, President Johan de Nysschen said.

The roll out is part of Infiniti's drive to cover 90 percent of all global premium segments by the end of the decade, compared to just under 60 percent today, de Nysschen said.

De Nysschen also floated a bold new global sales target of 600,000 units by around 2020, from just 170,000 last year.

"We will also in the future, introduce models above where the Q70 stops today, the Q70 being the former M," De Nysschen said today during the line off ceremony for the new Q50 sedan at Infiniti's Tochigi assembly plant. "In our crossover range, we can imagine significant additions to that lineup as well."

Fleshing out the lineup, he said, will "take us through to the end of this decade." Other cars already on tap include a new compact premium model that will be made at Nissan's Sunderland plant in the United Kingdom starting in 2015.

Persistent speculation has also swirled around a halo sports car cuing from the Infiniti Essence concept car shown in 2009 or the Emerg-E two-seat hybrid sports concept shown last year.

Top-tier player

De Nysschen, who left Audi to become President of Infiniti Motor Co. last July, has been tasked by Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn with transforming the brand into a top-tier premium player and boosting sales to 500,000 by 2016, from just 170,000 last year.

But if the rollout goes according to plan, and Infiniti expands in China and Europe as forecast, the brand should achieve sales of 600,000 units in the next seven years, de Nysschen added.

"I would imagine that by the end of this decade," he said, "we would not only breach the 500,000 mark but the 600,000 mark."

He said expanding the lineup is key to both building sales and buffing the brand image. But his first priority is improving the pricing power of Infiniti by making it a more desirable brand.

"That is more important that just hitting the sales numbers."

Help from yen

Infiniti has contributed almost nothing to the overall operating profit at parent Nissan Motor because it's export-dependent operations were hammered in recent years by the yen's surge against the dollar and other foreign currencies, he said.

But that will change with the yen's weakening in recent months, which makes exports more profitable, de Nysschen predicted.

Infiniti will be making "very useful profits" by next year, he said. In addition, he forecast that Infiniti's operating profit margin, in terms of percentage return on sales, could equal that of its mass market sister brand Nissan in that time frame.

(Infiniti to add new halo car, more crossovers originally appeared on Automotive News, sub. req.)

By Hans Greimel- Automotive News